ATP Australian Open: Rafael Nadal tames Kyrgios to follow Federer, Djokovic

Tennis - World no. 1 celebrated victory in four sets to advance into the 12th quarter-final in Melbourne

by Jovica Ilic
ATP Australian Open: Rafael Nadal tames Kyrgios to follow Federer, Djokovic

World no. 1 and a former Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal is through to his 12th quarter-final in Melbourne, beating Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6 in three hours and 38 minutes. It is the 41st Major quarter-final for Rafael Nadal overall, securing the third place on the list together with Jimmy Connors, trailing only to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

The Aussie hit 25 aces but that wasn't enough to keep him safe, with the Spaniard who produced more efficient numbers on both the first and especially the second serve to face only three break points in the entire clash, suffering two breaks that almost cost him dearly.

On the other hand, he stole Nick's serve twice as well from nine opportunities, prevailing in the crucial moments to book place in the quarters. Nadal had the advantage with 64 winners and 27 unforced errors, struggling to break Nick's rhythm after the opener but still finding the way to grab the triumph in four sets and avoid spending more time on the court.

Hitting 14 winners and six unforced errors, Nadal did everything right on the court in the opener, serving well and earning one break for a 6-3. Facing a deuce in the very first game, Rafa held with a forehand winner and a forced error from Kyrgios, avoiding an early setback and putting his name on the scoreboard before Nick leveled the score with an ace down the T line.

A forehand winner sent Rafa 2-1 ahead, breaking Kyrgios in the next game from 40-15 down to grab the crucial advantage. Mixing his shots nicely, the Spaniard held at 30 with a service winner to cement the break and move further ahead before the Aussie reduced the deficit to 4-2, staying within one break deficit.

With a great rhythm on serve, Rafa held at love in the seventh game and served for the set at 5-3 following an excellent hold from Kyrgios as well. Landing one right serve after another, Nadal delivered another hold at love to clinch the opener 6-3 in 36 minutes for the best possible start.

Reducing the number of errors and imposing his strokes for the first time, Nick survived a tough opening game of the second set and never looked back, stealing Nadal's serve at 2-1 and bringing it home with marvelous serving.

Facing an ultimate challenge in the first game, Nick repelled three break chances, holding after four deuces and giving himself a massive boost for the rest of the set. Not thinking about those opportunities he wasted, Rafa landed an ace down the T line to level the score at 1-1, hoping for more chances on the return in the next game, That didn't happen, though, with Kyrgios finding the way to stay in the longer rallies with a mighty opponent, holding at 15 with a beautiful lob winner and delivering his first and only break of serve a few minutes later thanks to a forehand down the line winner that Nadal failed to catch.

Serving at 3-1, Nick brought the game home at love when Nadal's backhand landed long, confirming the advantage and looking much better on the court than just 15 minutes ago. Rafa held at love in the sixth game with a perfect forehand down the line to reduce the deficit but there was nothing he could do on the return, allowing Nick to grab the set with two aces in game nine to level the score at 1-1 and stay in contention.

The third set was the best part of this encounter, with 35 winners overall and high tennis from start to finish. Nick repelled a break chance at 3-4 with a perfect drop shot, holding with two service winners and surviving two deuces in the 12th game to reach a tie break.

Rafa earned an instant mini-break for a 2-0 lead, forging a 4-1 advantage with a forehand winner before Kyrgios pulled the mini-break back in the ninth point after a forehand error from his opponent. A double fault from Nick in the worst possible moment sent Nadal 6-5 up, with another double fault coming from the racquet of world no.

1 for more drama and excitement. A volley winner kept Nadal 7-6 in front and the set was in his hands when Kyrgios netted a forehand in the 14th point, allowing Rafa to move two sets to one in front and slamming the racquet in anger.

Delivering one comfortable hold after another in the fourth set, Rafa was always in front, especially after a break at love in the third game that pushed him closer to the finish line. Serving at 5-4, Nadal hoped for the 13th consecutive comfortable hold but that didn't happen, with Kyrgios breaking back to level the score at 5-5 and prolong his chances.

Facing two break points in the 11th game, Nick stayed calm to repel both and bring the game home for a complete turnaround. Starting all over, Rafa hit four winners in the next game to set up the second straight tie break, hoping to seal the deal in straight sets.

Nick played a loose drop shot in the eighth point to give Rafa a 5-3 advantage, with the Spaniard crossing the finish line in the 11th point to find himself in the last eight.

Australian Open Rafael Nadal